All restaurant openings are fraught with numerous challenges, from passing health and fire inspections to staffing everyone from the chef de cuisine to the night porter. But when Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook set out to open Citron and Rose, their new Main Line spot, the obstacles they faced were downright biblical.
Much like the reimagined Israeli cuisine of Zahav, Citron and Rose aims to bring another largely unfamiliar set of tastes to the Philadelphia area — namely, those of Eastern European Jewish cookery. And the duo chose to execute the menu not only with a modern flair but also with the designation of Glatt kosher, catering to the area’s most observant clientele.
No shellfish? No problem. Lose the pork belly? Sure, that stuff is everywhere. But delving a little further into the laws of kashrut, things get a little dicey, especially from a restaurant’s point of view.
Dairy is a no-go, meaning that your meal-ending cappuccino is made with frothed soy milk and desserts are served with coconut-soy-milk ice creams. But these are challenges easily overcome by a creative kitchen whose members can cook without the usual crutches of butter and cream.
But when Cook set out to create the bar program, he faced a whole new set of hurdles.
Anyone who’s ever sipped a glass of Manischewitz knows that the jokes about cloying kosher wines are well-founded, but very few folks know the backstory.
Manischewitz falls under the category of mevushal wines, which have been cooked to a bare boil or flash-pasturized, killing off any fine mold that would make them nonkosher. This process allows non-Jews to serve the wines, but also does a number on the tannins and acids, resulting in flavors that are, well, let’s just say a little flabby. Citron and Rose, however, has done a fine job curating a list of wines that are quite interesting, including Spanish cavas, Piedmontese barolos and even an unlikely trockenbeerenauslese for dessert.
The real magic, though, happens in the cocktail menu that Cook and general manager Eilon Gigi created. Stocking bar basics was pretty straightforward, given the fact that most liqueurs carry a hechsher, but when it came to the amaros and vermouths that most mixologists rely on, there aren’t many kosher ones. There’s no Campari behind the bar, and not even a bottle of sweet vermouth.
But these limitations, this forced creativity, make the cocktails especially exciting. It’s a playful list full of nods to Eastern Europe. The Lower East Side blends gin, cucumber and dill into a drink that exists somewhere between a gimlet and a pickle. The Reb Roy, Citron’s answer to a Manhattan, brings together bourbon, Drambuie, bitters and barrel-aged Manischewitz. A recent addition to the menu, 40 Days and 40 Nights, is the Dark and Stormy that would be at home at a Jewish deli, a genius pairing of allspice-infused rum, brown-sugar syrup, lime and a pour of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda.